In the seven years since the legal battle between American singer and songwriter Kesha and her former producer Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald started, a series of lawsuits and countersuits have transpired. No end is in sight yet, but the pop powerhouse has recently landed a victory after a judge ruled that she can pursue a counterclaim against the defamation allegations set forth by the Kemosabe Records founder.
In October 2014, the star behind the viral hits “Tik Tok” and “Cannibal” sued Dr. Luke for sexual assault and battery as well as emotional abuse, sexual harassment, gender-based violence, and violation of California’s business practices. The lawsuit, which involved a request that Kesha be released from her contract, claimed that the record producer raped her while she was unconscious and emotionally and psychologically abused her during the course of their professional relationship. In response, Dr. Luke accused the singer of extorting him with false claims to get out of her deal, filing a defamation case against Kesha in a New York court.
In a devastating turn of events for Kesha, she lost the injunction to release music without Sony or Dr. Luke in February 2016 after a New York judge deemed that the musician was under no harm under her record label as has been permitted to record new tracks without the involvement of Dr. Luke. Additionally, that same year saw her claims of abuse thrown out, with the New York judge citing a lack of jurisdiction and evidence and Kesha dropping her stalled California abuse lawsuit.
On Wednesday, the tables turned for the pop star when the court decided that Dr. Luke would need to prove clear and convincing evidence of actual malice on Kesha’s part in order to win the defamation case. Additionally, Kesha will not only be able to seek damages and attorney’s fees, but she will also be allowed to pursue a counterclaim for the first time since he filed the lawsuit.
Early this year, Gottwald was on the receiving end of the New York appeals court’s conclusion that, despite his renowned status, he is a private figure who would not need to prove that Kesha recklessly disregarded the truth. This meant that his suit required a lower burden of proof than if he’s perceived as a public figure. However, the city recently passed a law aimed to protect free speech from frivolous litigations, changing the course of Dr. Luke’s case. The anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) allows for situations where private entities have to establish the existence of actual malice.
The recent court decision is one that Kesha needs in the face of the seven-year-long battle against Dr. Luke. Her attorney, Leah Godesky, relayed, “As everyone knows from (the) beginning, this is a he-said-she-said case where the evidentiary burden matters.”
After hearing of the latest development, Dr. Luke’s camp said, “Today’s court hearing was only about a technical legal issue: the burden of proof at trial. Dr. Luke would have filed this case regardless of the burden of proof. At trial, Dr. Luke will prove to the jury, as he has always maintained, that Kesha spread a vicious lie to get out of her contracts.”